WASHINGTON, May 4 (UPI) -- A U.S. Justice Department official said Alabama's controversial immigration law has "diminished access to and quality of education" for Hispanic children.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of the department's Civil Rights Division, in a letter to Alabama schools Superintendent Tommy Bice, said the law has had "lasting" and possibly illegal consequences for Hispanic schoolchildren, CNN reported.
The letter, date May 1, was released by the Justice Department late Thursday, hours after six people protested the immigration law near Alabama's Senate chamber, saying the law had "significant and measurable" impacts on schoolchildren, the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser reported.
"[The law has] diminished access to and quality of education for many of Alabama's Hispanic children, resulted in missed school days, chilled or prevented the participation of parents in their children's education, and transformed the climates of some schools into less safe and welcoming spaces for Hispanic children," Perez wrote.
The law includes a provision requiring police on lawful traffic stops or during arrests to try to determine the immigration status of anyone they suspect may be in the United States illegally.
A federal appeals court has blocked a part of the law requiring state officials to check the immigration status of children in public schools. CNN said the law allows students to be questioned on their immigration status but the information is not to be used to deny them enrollment.
In the letter, Perez said the law has led to higher absenteeism among Hispanic students. He also said the law had led to Hispanic students being singled out to receive notices or attend assemblies about the law and caused Hispanic students "increased anxiety and diminished concentration in school, deteriorating grades and increased hostility, bullying and intimidation."
The Advertiser reported Kevin Turner, chief deputy attorney general for the Alabama Attorney General's Office, which is defending the state against lawsuits brought against the statute, said the office had no comment on the letter.